About eight days later, Jesus climbed the mountain to pray—taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became dazzling white.
Suddenly, they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. They appeared in glory and were speaking of departure—the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep.
When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. Just as Moses and Elijah were leaving, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three dwellings: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter blurted this out without thinking.
While he was speaking, a cloud came and enveloped them; and they became deeply aware of God. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son—the Chosen; Listen to him!”
When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless and during those days, they told no one of what they had seen.
There is at least one more detail in this story that deserves our attention. It’s the specific detail that begins this story—the number eight. This story opens with the words, “About eight days later, Jesus climbed the mountain to pray…”
Eight days later is strangely specific.
To the ancient Israelites, however, numbers were never just numbers. Numbers carried symbolic meaning. Our forbearers—who told and preserved these stories—recognized the number eight as a symbol of new creation.
The poem that begins the book of Genesis details the creation of the universe in seven days—six days of divine labor and a seventh day of rest. Accordingly, the number seven carried with it the symbolism of the creation.
And eight—being creation plus one—carried with it the symbolism of what happens next—the new thing God is doing.
On the seventh day of creation, God rested…but on the eighth day, the transformation of that creation into something more beautiful began.
From the opening sentence, this story is declaring transfiguration, metamorphosis, new creation.
God is doing a new thing.
At the end of her study in spiritual experiences, Dr. Lisa Miller concluded, “We can choose how we approach life, especially during major inflection points.” “We can ignore the existential questions,” and the mountains and clouds that ignite “our spiritual awareness.” We can dismiss the details, resist renewal, and shutter every space, in an attempt to sidestep suffering. Or, as Dr. Miller writes, “we can open the door to a reshuffling of meaning, to the foundational, felt awareness that we are loved…and held…and part of it all.”
Anyone can be transformed. We will have to transcend our past, suffering will transpire, and we will need time to translate what has happened to us.
But metamorphosis is not just part of our potential. It’s hardwired into creation. It’s baked right in. We’ve always had the opportunity to become—to become something more beautiful—more light-bearing—more life-giving. We’ve always had the opportunity to be transfigured. It began the day after God rested—the eighth day—and it hasn't stopped since.
That much is transparent.
May we remember our shared spiritual capacity for transformation. May we be people who transcend our past, facing and absorbing the suffering that will transpire. May we take time to translate our experiences. And may we come alongside those on the mountain and in the garden to let them know they are not alone.
Go in Peace.
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